The reality television series “Pawn Stars” was the platform that made Rebecca Romney one of the most recognized faces in the rare and antique books industry, even if she wasn’t part of the main cast, but one of the recurring guests. It easily became the number one unscripted show on History Channel after it premiered in 2009. The last time she shared her expertise was in the 12th season, and she was never seen in the show again, to the fans’ dismay. They wondered if her services were terminated by the producers, or if she had a falling out with her co-stars.

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A brief look at what “Pawn Stars” was all about

The overall idea of making the reality show, “Pawn Stars,” came from the imagination of its main star, Rick Harrison. With several competitors around doing the same thing, he wanted all the promotion that he could get to make it on top of the industry in Las Vegas.

The origins of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop

People who were strapped for cash would look for legitimate means to acquire it, and one of them was to apply for bank loans. When banks weren’t established yet, pawnshops became one of the most essential establishments. Up to this day, pawnshops are still flourishing because getting bank loan approval was difficult to achieve. Rick’s father, Richard B. Harrison, fondly called “Old Man,” founded the Gold & Silver Coin Store in 1980 after his stint with the Navy. Rick turned the coin store into a pawnshop to make it more profitable.

The business license they waited for so long

A license was required to operate a pawnshop, but the local government couldn’t simply grant it to anyone due to a law that was passed in 1955 that aimed to limit the number of pawnshops in the city. There should only be one pawnshop to serve 50,000 residents. At that time, with a population of 200,000, there were already four shops in the area. They had to wait for it to become 250,000 before they could get their license. Rick would call the city statistician now and then to check if they reached the magic number, and in 1989 they acquired their license, and then obtained a lease on a commercial property just two miles away from the Las Vegas strip, where they established their pawnshop.

The uniqueness of Gold & Silver Pawn Shop

Rick Harrison knew that for their business to achieve its goal of being at the top, they must offer something unique to the market. Instead of just the usual trinkets such as jewelry and coins, they also accepted rare collections of memorabilia, artwork, and antique weaponry. He also delved into product branding, so he upgraded the look of the shop by placing a Picasso painting on one of its walls, making it look classy and luxurious. He made sure that everyone in the store was equipped to handle all types of clients. By doing this, Gold & Silver increased their profits.

If you can NAME all 3 experts you're a GOLD Fan!If you can NAME 2 of these experts, you're a SILVER Fan!If you can…

Posted by Rick Harrison's Gold & Silver Pawn on Saturday, February 7, 2015

“Pawn Stars” was born

The reality-TV genre became a vehicle for many businesses to elevate their brands – Rick wanted the same thing for the pawnshop. He acquired the assistance of a production company called Leftfield Productions to create a test episode, although the Old Man was reluctant to join the filming, as they scheduled it on his rest day. Eventually, after pleading with him, the filming went smoothly. Rick pitched his idea to many TV networks by showing the video, but when he arrived at the History Channel corporate offices, the video player didn’t work; they literally had to go from one office to another to find a working player. It was then that they met the VP of Programming, who eventually watched the video with them and immediately decided to produce the show they initially called “Pawning History.” It was later changed to “Pawn Stars” as it was instantly appealing since it was a wordplay on porn stars. In 2023, the show remains as strong as ever, enjoying its 23rd season on TV.

Meet Rebecca Romney, one of the experts on the show

People were amazed that Rebecca Romney, despite the recognition that she received for being part of “Pawn Stars,” remained humble, even after she was long gone from the show. She would often describe herself as a rare book expert, a profession that already spoke volumes, but she was more than that.

Educational background and other skills

Rebecca Angeline Romney (nee Engaeat) was born in 1989 in a town in Idaho. She seemed to be a private person, and rarely shared anything specific about her personal life. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Classical Studies and Linguistics, and aside from American English, she learned to speak French and Japanese when she was in high school, and then also delved into Ancient Greek and Latin when she was earning her college degree. During her spare time, she devoted some of it to learning the Old English language, so that she could easily read and understand Beowulf in its original form, saying that a lot of things from the old books were lost in translation.

How did she get into dealing with rare books?

Rebecca shared in one of her Q&A segments on an online page, ‘I got into this field the way a lot of rare book dealers seem to – sort of by accident. Right place, right time, right background.’ At that time, Bauman Rare Books, a prominent bookshop of rare and old books with galleries in New York, Las Vegas and Philadelphia, was hiring new people, and she went through a series of interviews. When she was chosen, she underwent extensive training with them, including hands-on methods on how to deal with rare books.

She said that anyone could earn a degree with a specialization about the history of a book, but when it came to becoming a dealer, it was totally a different ballgame. There are no degrees available to acquire that skill, and the only way to go about it was to take an apprenticeship under experienced mentors, with access to a wide variety of rare books. She said that there was a huge difference between knowing if a book was a genuine first print release and analyzing its relative condition, which could only be possible through exposure to multiple first printings.

How did she end up in “Pawn Stars”?

Most viewers thought that when Rick Harrison fondly called her buddy, it was part of a script given to them by the writers of “Pawn Stars.” However, the truth was that Rebecca and Rick knew each other long before the TV series started airing. She said that they were actually friends and even went out on double dates with their partners, which made them even closer. Since her company, Bauman Rare Books, was the only expert in that field in Las Vegas at that time, Rick called her. The Leftfield Pictures executive producers liked her, and so she ended up filming for several seasons with the show.

Rebecca Romney’s highlights in “Pawn Stars”

The book expert wasn’t part of the first three seasons, as the show never dealt with any rare books. She was called in during the fourth season, and with her expertise on full display, viewers were impressed, and she became their resident specialist on books. Here are some of the highlights of her stint with the show:

Her first appearance in the show

A client came to sell his first edition of Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield,” which he won at a golf game. He wasn’t a book collector, so he wanted to earn some money by selling it, and was looking to make about $4000. At that time, Rick’s rare book expert wasn’t around, but his instinct was to buy it – he haggled and bought it for $1600. When Rebecca came into the shop to check its authenticity, she told Rick that collectors looked for the earliest editions among the series of issues that came out, for instance, “Edition No 1. Issue No 1.”

It turned out that it was a first edition, identified through some telltale signs in the printing of some words, but the condition of the book wasn’t that great, because of brown spots called foxing inside the pages, specifically on the engraved title page, which was a big minus to its value. However, Rick was relieved when Rebecca said that it would fetch a retail price of $2,500 to $3,000 give or take – Rick could still profit from it, and was happy with it. She told Rick to call her to appraise any book before he made future decisions, so he could get a better deal.

The not-so-valuable Don Quixote books

A client named Jennifer came in with a fourth edition four volume of Don Quixote’s leather-bound books entitled “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha,” printed in 1731, written by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra – she was hoping to sell it to fund the college education of her daughter. From the first look, the timeless classic could fetch a huge amount, since a first edition was worth millions of dollars. Rick called Rebecca Romney who said that Don Quixote was the bestselling work ever after the Bible; there were at least 500 million books sold over the years. The author lived around the same time as Shakespeare, and around 400 copies of the first edition were printed in Spanish in Madrid in 1605.

In 1620, it was translated into English by Thomas Shelton, which was what was indicated on the title page of the book that was being appraised. Rebecca said that it would mean that it was printed 100 years later, which wasn’t normally a good thing. However, since Don Quixote was considered the most popular novel in human history, later printings still had some collectible value. It turned out that the set of books would retail at $1,500 to $1,800. The client was disappointed, but took the $1000 that Rick offered her. If Rick hadn’t asked for Rebecca’s assistance, he would have lost a lot of money, as it wasn’t as valuable as they had all thought.

Rare Illuminated Books – valuable in complete set

Before the illuminated books by Charles Paul De Kock were assessed by Rebecca, the owner John was hoping he would come out of the shop with thousands of dollars in his hand. An uncle who was a book collector, had left them to him when he died. Rick wasn’t familiar with the author, but was familiar with illuminated books and knew that book collectors loved them. Rebecca wasn’t around, but Rick was confident when he made an offer of $2000 for the two books.

The rare book expert couldn’t leave her gallery, so Rick took the illuminated books to her.  After checking them out, Rebecca reminded Rick that when buying a book that came from a set,  ensure to have the complete set because having just one or two would immensely decrease its value. If he bought the whole set, it would fetch around $50,000. At first, he was disappointed to find out that he paid double the amount of its worth as she said that individually, the book was valued at $500. However, while no one really knew the author anymore, the book had original artwork done inside mostly by John Sloan, and many people still recognized him. That saved the day and increased its value – it could fetch $2500 to $4000 in an auction.

Rebecca’s interesting anecdotes from filming with “Pawn Stars”

With all the negative speculations that surfaced online when she was abruptly cut from “Pawn Stars,” Rebecca Romney never said a bad word against the production and her co-stars. Here are some of the things Rebecca shared with fans about her experience with the show:

Extending the length of filming

Fans of other reality TV shows would hear of some cast members having problems with the production crew, such as being asked to re-shoot some of the scenes, or to stay a little bit longer than usual. In Rebecca’s case, they never asked her to extend the length of filming because the editors already had a difficult time editing out some of her scenes, specifically when she was dishing out detailed information about a book that was being appraised. She admitted that she was surprised that the director mostly cut around 80% of whatever data or backstory she shared.

The rumors that each book appraisal was scripted

Most reality shows these days were accused at some point of faking many of the scenes that were shown on TV, and that everything was a setup. Rebecca said that she never saw anything of that sort when she was filming her parts in the show. The producers would call her beforehand and inform her about the book to be analyzed; it was only logical because viewers wanted an expert’s opinion, and there were only a few people in the world with a photographic memory and so she needed time to prepare – ‘There are too many books in the world for me to know all the details off the top of my head.’

There was also a time when viewers thought that her presence in the shop when a client popped in for a book appraisal was planned out. However, she cleared it up by saying that there were times when she would appraise some books on the side for Rick that weren’t featured in the show, but most of the time her appearances were scheduled.

She candidly addressed the issue of the authenticity of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop

Those avid fans who traveled to Las Vegas to visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop had some doubts about its authenticity. They were curious to see if it was a functioning pawnshop, because of how it looked. Most of them posted on social media that it was designed for tourists and not for those who wanted to pawn their valuables. Rebecca said that it was true that the shop was designed for swag and style, but when she was there, she personally witnessed customers pawning their items.

The real reason behind her disappearance from “Pawn Stars”

Some people wanted to make the reason for Rebecca Romney’s decision to leave the show more intriguing or scandalous, but it was nothing like that. It was simply because she moved to another state with her husband and author, JP Romney. She transferred to the Philadelphia branch of Bauman Rare Book Shop, and it would be illogical for her to come to Las Vegas to film the show, when she wasn’t part of the main cast.

After spending eight years with Bauman as a bookseller and gallery manager, she worked at Honey & Wax Booksellers for three years. In Washington D.C., she co-founded the Type Punch Matrix, a rare book company with a commitment ‘to make collecting both more accessible and more diverse, and believe in the mindful acquisition, preservation, and celebration of the materials of our literary cultures.’

In December 2022, Rebecca surprised fans when she made a guest appearance in “Pawn Stars Do America,” a new spin-off series of her former show. One of its episodes featured her new shop, and viewers were amazed at how different Type Punch Matrix was from other rare book shops. There were rumors that she and her husband were divorced, but they never addressed the issue. However, Washingtonian, a regional online magazine, referred to JP as her ex-husband.

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